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Renewed Fighting Scuttles 5-Month-Old Ethiopia Cease-Fire


FILE - A destroyed tank is seen amid fighting between the Ethiopian National Defense Force and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) forces in Kasagita town, in Ethiopia's Afar region, Feb. 25, 2022. Renewed clashes have been reported in the country's Amhara region.

Tigrayan forces say Ethiopia’s federal allies have launched an offensive against their southern positions in violation of a months-long cease-fire, but Ethiopia's government blamed Tigrayan rebels for the flare-up in violence.

Officials told VOA Tuesday they are ready for peace talks mediated by the African Union.

The Tigrayan People's Liberation Front, known as the TPLF, said Wednesday that troops from the National Defense Force and Amhara regional forces attacked its positions near Kobo in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. The claim was later confirmed by the Reuters news agency.

A statement from the TPLF command said, "Tigray's army is reliably ready to repulse this offensive, and transition into a counteroffensive to liberate occupied sovereign Tigrayan territory and return our displaced people to their homes." The statement appeared to suggest the TPLF could respond with force.

The Ethiopian government has since alleged that it was the TPLF which launched the attacks.

A statement from the federal government called on the international community for support.

"The international community should also condemn the obvious belligerence of the TPLF, lest it becomes complicit in the unconscionable march of the TPLF to a third round of conflict. All those who profess to be committed to the stability of the region and humanitarian ideals should exert pressure on the TPLF to renounce violence and endorse peace," the statement said.

The Ethiopian government says it has been laying the groundwork for peace talks with the TPLF, mediated by the African Union.

On Tuesday, an Ethiopian government spokesperson, Selamawit Kassa, told VOA that “The federal government has full confidence in the African Union and its high commissioner assigned to cover the peace talks. There is no plausible reason for Ethiopia to look for other entities to broker the peace efforts.”

The TPLF, however, claims the AU is biased in favor of the federal government and will not come to the negotiating table without mediation by the Kenyan government and a resumption of basic services to the region, such as banking and humanitarian access, which have been blocked by officials in Addis Ababa.

Getachew Reda, a TPLF spokesperson, criticized the government for favoring AU mediation on Monday in an op-ed published on the website of The Africa Report, a monthly news magazine.

“It's been very evident that both sides have been recuperating, preparing themselves for a new bout of fighting, at the same time as talking about peace,” said Ahmed Soliman, with the U.K.-based research group Chatham House. “As we've seen today and as happened at the beginning of the war in 2020, both sides have blamed the other for instigating the conflict. This relapse into fighting in Tigray and Ethiopia should have been avoided at all costs.”

William Davison, an analyst for the International Crisis Group, a research organization based in Belgium, said all sides to the conflict need to talk with each other.

“This is a clear indicator that the delay in talks has fed into this very volatile truce and we see events that could mean a resumption of conflict and I think there’s an evident and urgent need for the external actors here, the African Union, Kenya’s government, the U.S., etc.... to try and get the parties not just to pause these latest hostilities, but also to actually sit around the table for talks, where they can discuss all of their disagreements rather than making them preconditions for talks,” he said.

A humanitarian truce that was established in March between the two sides now appears to be at an end.

Renewed fighting is likely to have a major impact on the humanitarian situation in Tigray. Humanitarian organizations say parts of the region could already be in a state of famine.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday he is "shocked and saddened" by the renewed fighting and that Ethiopians have suffered enough.

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